Amish America: Holmes County, Ohio

015Had I been asked, I would have said the largest Amish community in the country was somewhere around Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  I would have been wrong.  We found it on a visit last summer to Holmes County, Ohio.

Just short of forty-four thousand people live in this northeast Ohio county.  About forty percent are Amish.  Millersburg is the county seat.  Other towns include Charm, Mt. Hope, Bunker Hill, and Berlin (with the accent on the first syllable).

Laundry Day

Laundry Day

We had an extended-family dinner at the Yoder’s home outside Charm.  We were charmed by the couple and their one daughter yet remaining at home.

If you would like to know more about the Amish, I suggest you visit Elizabethtown College’s website: http://www2.etown.edu/amishstudies/.

While all the approximately 290,000 Amish trace their religion back to the Anabaptist movement of 1525, not all believe exactly the same thing.  There are about 40 subgroups living in 480 settlements in the Northeast U.S. and Ontario, Canada.

Hay ready to load on the wagon

Hay ready to load on the wagon

They all are Christians who believe in adult baptism, separation from popular culture, the separation of church and state, and pacifism.  But the ways these tenets are expressed varies.

For example, the second of the Ten Commandments prohibits a”graven image” and the Amish value humility.  Therefore posing for a photograph is problematic.  But each group has its own take on that, some being much more strict than others.

027All groups live in rural areas, use horse and buggy transportation, dress plainly, restrict contact with outsiders, restrict modern technology and are conscientious objectors.

But within this framework are many variations.  For example, there are different rules among different groups regarding dress, décor and the use of electricity.

The Yoders told us they attend a gathering of Amish in Sarasota, Florida each year.  They don’t take the horse and buggy from Charm, Ohio.  In their group, they are permitted to hire others for transportation.  While their

lehman15home had an interesting gas ceiling lamp using a mantle much like that on a Coleman lamp, they also had a smoke detector, and I noticed electric fans off to the side for days when their guests might need them.  But we were asked before we arrived specifically not to ask questions about their beliefs.

All groups reject television, computers in their homes, and generally avoid tapping into the public power grid.  Most use horses for farm work, but some use tractors.

Some prefer traditional alternative medicine while others lean towards more modern methods, but there is a strong sense of community support when a “neighbor” needs help.

A Paul Weaver carving

A Paul Weaver carving

They pay income, property, sales, estate and corporate taxes and often pay school taxes although their own children attend Amish schools.

Our visit was short.  It was for a family event and not specifically to see Holmes County.  Nonetheless, we enjoyed riding around the county looking at the Amish farms.  We visited the Lehman store in Kidron (subject of another post).  While there, we saw the Paul Weaver’s amazing work.

059Weaver is an Amish furniture maker.  But he is also an amazing wood carver.  Although his work was not for sale, it was on display at the Lehman store while we were there.

Using mahogany, butternut and other woods glued together to make blocks from one and a half inches to seven inches thick, he carves out elaborate pictures using drawknives and chisels.  The blocks we saw were generally about four inches thick.  The detail was amazing.  Everything was carved out of the solid blocks.  Nothing was glued on later.

024We were told the carvings could take as long as six months.  The work was so fine, I was surprised he could do them that quickly.

He often works from the paintings of John Sloane and others.  A realist artist myself, I was struck by his ability to translate the perspective a flat painting into the depth of a three dimensional carving. His proportions are perfect.  His people seem to be really working and playing.

His people look like the Amish of Holmes County.

Click on photos to enlarge

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About ralietravels

Ray and Alie (Ralie) are a retired couple who love to travel. Even during our working years, we squeezed a trip in whenever we could, often when we had to stretch the budget to do so. We have been fortunate to vacation in all 50 states, all the provinces of Canada and one territory and a little more than 50 countries. We like to drive, but we particularly love to travel back roads to find unusual sights, people, and experiences.
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4 Responses to Amish America: Holmes County, Ohio

  1. Keith & Loraine Beckman says:

    Some of the things you mentioned I did not know. The scenery is beautiful and the information very enlightening. Thanks again for the history lesson. Love to all. LK&W

    Like

  2. JohnRH says:

    Beautiful wood carvings. Quite amazing.

    Like

    • ralietravels says:

      You are right. It was a temporary display. Kidron’s, the subject of a future post, is interesting. But if one is lucky enough to get there this year, it would be worth going out of one’s way to see the carvings.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. BunKaryudo says:

    My goodness, those carvings are incredible! He has real talent.

    Like

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